Hope



Throughout this last year’s Annual Meeting of the Child Neurology Society in Austin, TX, one word kept echoing in my mind. That word was “hope”. I feel privileged to have witnessed the vast evolution of our discipline over the past several decades. For a decade of CNS meetings, we heard ever increasingly detailed descriptions that characterized more and more sharply the syndromes we saw in our clinics and hospitals. Then, for a decade, we saw the anatomic substrates and physiologic mechanisms that underpinned these syndromes described. But this year, we heard example after example of preventive measure and therapy that followed directly from the mechanisms and substrates and characterizations we witnessed in decades past. Our gross observations and microscopic depictions and eletrophysiologic studies and molecular discoveries have finally led to strategies that can be directly connected back to the patients and families from whence they came to effect prevention and treatment and, yes, cure.

It was hard to contain the pervasive sense of excitement. How could it be otherwise? The audience was filled with those who had waited for, those who had contributed to, and those who will implement these discoveries. Individuals who optimize the technologies that make mitochondria visible and gene sequences decipherable sat right next to those who explain the complexities of genetic diseases to families who live with them and those who are training to use one for the good of the other. How exciting is that? We should be shouting from the rooftops and enlightening those who control the power, the money, and the game plan for the U.S. and the world.

This must be our primary agenda for the next decade – bringing the rest of the world in on what has been our best-kept secret. No patient or family should leave our offices or our hospitals without knowing what we do and why it is so critically important. No medical student should graduate without understanding the importance of child neurology to their future patients. No legislator, financial manager, politician, business person should live on the same planet with us without knowing why fueling the child neurology workforce and funding the child neurology enterprise are mission-critical for the health and well-being of their constituents today and for generations to come.

The CNS must be at the forefront of communicating this message to our diverse constituencies. Accordingly, I have charged our committees with developing and disseminating individualized communication vehicles and substrates for patients, parents, government officials, research and clinical staff, health care trainees, attending physicians, and laypeople, respectively. We must take every possible opportunity to speak through the media; lecture to students of all levels; and talk with patients, families, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances about the importance of child neurologists and their allied workforce. Our website must have user-friendly portals that make it the “go-to” place for patients and families; students and trainees; researchers, educators, and clinicians; voters and government officials; buyers and sellers.

When the question is asked, “What does a child neurologist do?”, the answer must be, “Things that are important for everyone!” When the question is asked, “Why do we need child neurologists?”, the answer must be, “Because we owe our children nothing less than what is best for them.” When the question is asked, “Who needs child neurologists?”, the answer must be, “You and your children and your students and your employees and your voting public.” And when the question is asked, “Why should I become a child neurologist?”, the answer must be, “Come with me and see what I do for children and their families.” We must ensure that each answer to each question is heard loud and clear and again and again. The time is now. The need is great. And the potential is limitless.